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Bacalar’s lagoon has begun to recover its vibrant colors

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Aerial view of Bacalar in 2014. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Bacalar’s “seven-color” lagoon has begun to recover some of its lost splendor.

Municipal authorities said that the loss of the lagoons’ bright bands of color was a natural phenomena caused by 2020’s intense rainy season. 

Bacalar’s lagoon in late February 2020. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

However, even before the beginning of the 2020 rainy season, locals and tourists had started to notice changes in the lagoon. In March 2020, authorities decided to cancel all navigation in the lagoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help the ecosystem to recover. 

With the decline of tourism caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many in Bacalar see an opportunity for the ecosystem to recover.

View of Bacalar lagoon from the 18th century fort of San Felipe. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The small town of Bacalar and its stunning so-called “lagoon of seven colors” are popular with travelers wanting to get away from crowded resorts such as Cancún and Playa del Carmen. Aside from hotels, the shores of the lagoon are also full of luxurious private residences, some of which are available for rent. 

Kayaking in Bacalar’s crystalline waters is a popular activity, for reasons which should be obvious. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

“Five years or so ago, Bacalar really started to grow. All of a sudden it went from being a sleepy little town with a gorgeous lagoon, to a major attraction with tons of hotels and restaurants. And now, the lagoon itself is paying the price for all the activity. It’s still nice but it’s not quite the same,” said Raúl Lopez of nearby Chetumal. 

In 2020, countless dead sea snails began to wash ashore on the banks of the lagoon. The death of the snails is particularly concerning as they are an important source of food for the many birds in the region. 

A fishing eagle takes flight over Bacalar Lagoon. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Bacalar is also popular with backpackers traveling between Mexico and Belize. 

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